Easy STEM Activities for Preschoolers You Can Do at Home

Making time for STEM activities at home can be very beneficial for your children’s education. Preschoolers are very sensible about STEM, as its disciplines involve decoding everything around them and understanding the world they are in. It is a mistake to think they are not ready for them, as kids can learn abstract concepts at a very young age. They are advised for children at preschool age (2-4 years old). It is not a matter of their capacity, but the right approach to fomenting their critical thinking. Finding STEM activities for preschoolers to do at home is a great way to do this.

There has been some debate on whether STEM should include Art among its key components. Traditionally, STEM disciplines were separated from the arts. But STEAM sees the links between them, as innovation is important to said disciplines, and art plays a crucial part in this.

The reason behind it is that art is not merely a creativity booster but also a basis for better communication and the ability to solve problems. In this article, we will share with you the best STEM activities for preschoolers, especially the ones that incorporate art.

Topics covered:

What is STEM?

What is STEAM for preschoolers?

Why is art important in STEM for preschoolers?

How is art used in STEM for preschoolers?

Best STEM Activities for Preschoolers (involving art)

Doing STEM activities for preschoolers

What is STEM?

STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This category groups relevant disciplines considered key in education at all levels, especially, at a very young age. As said, there is some debate on whether STEM should incorporate Arts (STEAM) to teach important abilities to children. It was introduced in 2001 by the U.S. National Science Foundation, as a result of research showing that students were not performing as well as they should in said disciplines in contrast to other countries.

What is STEAM for preschoolers?

STEAM incorporates creative thinking and applied arts into teaching and real situations, one of the key learnings to encourage at an early age. One of the main aspects of it is to show kids different and engaging ways of learning, to make the process of acquiring a skill something that can be enjoyed, rather than something “you want to know. Art helps students absorb the freedom needed to properly exercise STEM disciplines.

STEAM activities for toddlers can boost many skills, such as:

  • Creativity
  • Peer interaction
  • Decision-making
  • Coping with failure
  • Leading
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Attention to detail
  • and many more.

Implementing STEAM activities at home before kids start their schooling years is very beneficial. It prepares them for taking a different approach in terms of learning as an action based on curiosity.

Why is art important in STEM for preschoolers?

For starters, it is a false misconception that arts have little to do with other STEM disciplines. Many creative techniques to create art involve science, engineering, and mathematics. To show the close relationship between is to avoid limiting toddlers in terms of what they can do, as well as offer them the possibility of doing multiple things at once.

Secondly, STEM disciplines can also benefit from artistic learning. Studies show that programs that incorporate the arts into the curriculum can:

  • increase creativity,
  • improve academic performance,
  • increase motor skills,
  • enhance visual learning,
  • boost higher decision-making skills.

Finally, art activities based on STEAM are much more educational than traditional craft activities for kids. They are:

  • Open-ended: there are many ways to solve each activity, boosting kids’ creativity.
  • Multi-resulting: every kid can come up with a valid and original way of resolving them.
  • 4-C: they involve Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration.
  • Multi-disciplinary: as described above, they find the connections between science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
  • Continuous improvement: these activities are open to ideas, trial and error, and enhancements, especially when coming from kids testing them.

How is art used in STEM for preschoolers?

As said before, arts are a great basis for better grasping STEM disciplines. It makes the process of learning more enjoyable so they pay closer attention to what they are doing. The are many ways to include arts in preschooler activities, for instance:

  • visual arts
  • visual notetaking
  • adding graphics
  • using colors
  • music

The most important goal here is to make sure that the activities have a proper space for kids to decide. If the activities involve producing something, there are no wrong answers, and the more flexible artistic elements involved in the process, the better. Many STEM activities themselves require decision-making, so just ensure that these incorporate elements such as the above.

Best STEM Activities for Preschoolers (involving art)

Let’s now dive into the best activities for toddlers based on the STEM method + art. As we discussed before, these are not recipes to follow without flexibility, so make sure to add your touch if you think this can help your kid learn better and have more fun while on it.

  1. Coke with Mentos Rocket
  2. Magic Milk
  3. Electric Play Dough Animals
  4. 3D Shape building
  5. Invisible Ink
  6. String sound transmission
  7. Color-changing Flowers
  8. Toys with parachutes
  9. Toy car experiments
  10. Marble Maze (with magnets)
  11. Paper boats
  12. Cloud in a jar
  13. Home-made Catapult
  14. Bath bombs
  15. Static electricity

1. Coke with Mentos Rocket

You probably have already seen this one somewhere. A very easy-to-do activity, with guaranteed fun for toddlers. It is an excellent introduction to different chemical reactions when combining different elements. Just make sure you are somewhere open and don’t mind some mild splashing.

STEM Category: Science

Materials Needed:

  • 1 or 2-liter bottle of Coke or similar cola drink (diet works better because it contains aspartame)
  • Mentos or similar mint candies (any flavor)
  • Scotch/Duct tape
  • Protective goggles

Instructions:

  1. Keep the diet soda out of the fridge (warm cola works better).
  2.  Find somewhere open, as the rocket will bounce.
  3. Cut some duct tape, enough to cover 5 to 7 mentos.
  4. Place the mentos over the tape.
  5. Cut more tape so that mentos are covered on both sides.
  6. Cut some more and roll it around your finger, with the sticky part on the outside.
  7. Paste the top mento on the tape of your finger.
  8. Take off the tape on your finger with the mentos attached and paste them on the inner side of the bottle cap.
  9. Add more tape to the mentos to ensure that they don’t fall prematurely into the mix.
  10. Close the bottle not too tight and ensure the mentos do not touch the coke yet.
  11. Throw the bottle and see the rocket launch!

2. Magic Milk

Another easy and beautiful experiment, this one is lovely to watch. See your kids delighted as the colors move around in the milk. Ideal for younger ones, try it at home.

STEM Category: Science

Materials Needed:

  • Whole milk
  • A plate (or pan, needs to have some depth)
  • Food coloring
  • Liquid dish soap (non-antibacterial)

Instructions:

  1. Pour some milk on the plate (a very thin layer).
  2. Squeeze some drops of food coloring (at will).
  3. Drip one drop of soap in the middle of the colored milk.

3. Electric Play Dough Animals

A great way to foster kids’ creativity while introducing them to electricity, this is a simple closed circuit made fun. Creating a character that has lights in it is very easy and flexible, a proper experiment with an artsy approach. We will show the example with a clay bug, but once you get the idea, you can adapt to the toddlers’ ideas. Be sure to take safety measures and adult supervision, as electricity can be dangerous if not careful.

STEM Category: Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • A small light bulb (could be one from a lantern)
  • 4 AA batteries (ensure they have the correct voltage for your light bulb)
  • 4 AA battery pack with leads
  • Cardstock 
  • Scissors
  • Play Dough (Play-doh like)

Instructions:

  1. Cut a cardstock oval base for your bug, and two more to use as wings.
  2. Make your clay bug in 3 shapes: a head and 2 oblong sides. Customize it at your will. The side pieces of the cardboard wings should not touch each other.
  3. The leads of the LED have a positive longer one, and a shorter negative one. Pull the leads apart, and stick one end into each side of the body. Remember which side has the positive lead.
  4. Put the batteries in the battery pack. Stick the red wire into the side with the positive LED lead; put the black wire into the other.
  5. When you turn the pack on, the bug should glow!

4. 3D Shape building

A very simple introduction to geometry, this is another easy activity for kids at home. With very little, you can show them the basic shapes, as well as let them play around to produce other ones at their will.

STEM Category: Mathematics

Materials Needed:

  • Playdough
  • Toothpicks

Instructions:

  1. Build small sphere-like playdough balls.
  2. Pinch them with toothpicks.
  3. Start building shapes!

5. Invisible Ink

Easy to make and with many applications, try this one at home. Kids can draw a shape or an animal and add small details with invisible ink, only to reveal them with light. It doesn’t necessarily involve writing, so it is a good place for kids to put their creativity to work.

STEM Category: Science

Materials Needed:

  • 1 lemon
  • Water
  • Cotton swab
  • A small flashlight (you can use a light bulb or even the sun)
  • Paper to draw
  • Something to draw (anything should do)

Instructions:

  1. Squeeze the lemon in a glass or bowl.
  2. Add a spoonful of water and mix gently.
  3. Use the cotton to draw something on paper.
  4. Reflect some light to see what you drew!
  5. Alternatively, draw something with a pencil and add secret details with the cotton swab.

6. String sound transmission

This is a curious introduction to sound, as well as a small technological test. It’s simple and fast, and it explains how sound travels through a medium.

STEM Category: Technology, Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • Different-sized spoons
  • A long piece of yarn
  • A pencil

Instructions:

  1. Tie the piece of yarn around the middle of the spoon.
  2. Hold the piece at the height of your ears (or the toddlers’ ears)
  3. Tap the spoon with the pencil, this will transmit the sound directly to the ears.
  4. Different-sized spoons will produce different tones.

7. Color-changing Flowers

Let’s add some patience to this lesson. This activity is a nice and simple show to watch, and will surely entice the young ones. Plus, not much is needed to implement this.

STEM Category: Science

Materials Needed:

  • White flowers
  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Test tubes or glasses (amount depends on colors you have)

Instructions:

  1. Fill each glass with water and a different color (add extra coloring for better results)
  2.  Trim the edges of your flowers and put them in the glass with water.
  3. Add the flowers to the glass and wait for the results. (It takes about a day, but you start to see results gradually)

8. Toys with parachutes

Seeing your toys fall with style is a good lesson on how wind works. You can build small parachutes at home and have fun while they slowly land. Of course, don’t risk your favorite ones!

STEM Category: Engineering, Science

Materials Needed:

  • A piece of paper
  • Strings
  • A handkerchief
  • Ribbons or strings
  • Light-weighted toys (i.e., a plastic soldier toy)
  • Scissors
  • A plastic bag

Instructions:

  1. Cut the paper and the plastic bag in a square shape the size of the handkerchief.
  2. Cut four pieces of string in the same size (20-30 cm).
  3. Tie the squares of material (paper + plastic + handkerchief) to the toy with a string.
  4. Throw it from a ladder or other short height.

9. Toy car experiments

Is your kid fond of cars? There are many ways to teach him/her some basic engineering and physics with them. Let’s see some ideas to build tracks at home. The materials for these are suggestions, as you will get an idea of what to try.

STEM Category: Technology, Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • One or two toy cars
  • Different surfaces, i.e.:
    • A ruler
    • A rug
    • Cardboard
    • Grass/dirt

Instructions:

This time, try building different race tracks. Test how the car runs on every surface. Try changing the angles of the surface to test gravity and physics. The point is to show toddlers how everything affects mobility.      

10. Marble Maze (with magnets)

The magnet part is optional, but this one is a simple game to create at home. It involves creativity and the mazes allow a wide variety of options. Plus, mazes are opportunities for kids to exercise their building, visual and spatial skills. It’s another great lesson on gravity!

STEM Category: Technology, Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • A marble (if it’s metallic, the better)
  • Toy blocks (LEGO-like)
  • A base for the blocks (can work without this, but the structure will be less sturdy)
  • Magnets (only if the marble is metallic)

Instructions:

  1. Build a maze with the blocks on the base. Make sure that there is enough space for the ball between blocks.
  2. Put the ball in and grab the base. Incline subtly the base to make the ball move in each direction.
  3. If the ball is metallic, you can use magnets to make it move from below the base.

11. Paper boats

This classic home experiment can teach us a lot. From basic physics to different materials, you can turn the experiment into a racing game. The different shapes required to build it are also a great way to learn a little bit about math and geometry.

STEM Category: Engineering, or Mathematics

Materials Needed:

  • Different materials (regular paper, cardboard, wax paper, get creative!)
  • Elements to decor the boat (you can use them to see how they affect sailing)
  • A bathtub or some sort of pond or pool
  • You can add elements to affect the conditions (i.e., a fan to simulate wind)

Instructions:

  1. Build a paper boat (if you are unsure about how to do it, double-check the process here)
  2. Decor your boat.
  3. Fill your tub or go to the nearest pond.
  4. See how the boat floats, and measure how long it takes for them to sink.
  5. Start over by changing materials, sizes, etc.

12. Cloud in a jar

A straightforward science test, this one is nice and easy. Kids can also add color to this, so there’s room for originality. Besides, it can be done with very few things. It is a great idea to learn a bit about the weather.

STEM Category: Science

Materials Needed:

  • A jar (the bigger, the better)
  • A cup
  • Water
  • Foam shaving cream
  • Blue food coloring (have other colors for later on)
  • A medicine dropper

Instructions:

  1. Fill the jar with water to the top.
  2. Add shaving foam over the top to cover the surface.
  3. Fill the cup with water and add plenty of blue coloring.
  4. With the medicine dropper, dribble blue water on top of the shaving-cream cloud, and watch the rainstorm form.

13. Home-made Catapult

It’s hard not to enjoy a good old catapult, and it does not need to be as fancy as the one in the picture. Needless to say, there is a lot of physics involved in it. Crafting yours at home is a great lesson for toddlers.

STEM Category: Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • A box
  • 3 unsharpened pencils (or similar sticks)
  • Rubber bands (strong ones)
  • Tape or glue
  • Lid
  • Paper clips
  • Hole punch

Instructions:

  1. Punch a hole in the long side of the box and a matching one on the other side. The holes should be large enough for a pencil to rotate easily. Punch the third one on the opposite short side, centered and near the bottom.
  2. Join 2 pencils together in the shape of a “t” to make the arm and secure them with rubber bands.
  3. Tape or glue a small jar lid to the longer end of the arm.
  4. Wrap a rubber band on the shorter end of the arm with a slipknot.
  5. Create a “stopper” for the catapult arm with the third pencil to be placed across the top of the box and in front of the arm. Make sure it is secured by wrapping a large rubber band around one end of the pencil, under the box, and up and around the other end.

14. Bath bombs

A fun trick to make baths more interesting. Combine some home elements into these bombs and see their fizzy reactions.

STEM Category: Science

Materials Needed:

  • A cup of baking soda.
  • Half a cup of Epsom salt.
  • Half a cup of citric acid.
  • Half a cup of corn starch.
  • Oil essences.
  • Epsom salt
  • 1 teaspoon of water.
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
  • Something to act as a mold. (i.e., cookie mold, sphere-shaped if possible)
  • 2 bowls

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the baking soda, citric acid, corn starch, and Epsom salt and set aside.
  2. Combine one or two drops of olive oil, water, and essences in a small bowl.
  3. Add the wet mixture to the dry very slowly. Mix it slowly without letting it bubble. Let it sit for a couple of minutes once it’s combined,  with a wet sand look and feel. If it’s still too dry, add a drop of olive oil, but very carefully.
  4. Separate the mixture into smaller bowls and add food coloring, mixing in the color by hand.
  5.  Add colors on both halves of a sphere-shaped mold and pack them down. When each side is filled with a slight mound, press them together and gently rotate until the sides lock.
  6. Let the bomb dry in the mold for a few minutes, then carefully remove the top half. Leave it for another hour or two, then carefully turn the bottom half out of the mold. Let it dry overnight.

15. Static electricity

Last but not least, a fun way to learn the basics of static electricity. This involves little to no elements and kids will enjoy a good laugh at seeing their hair stand up.

STEM category: science, engineering

Materials Needed:

  • A blown-up balloon
  • A mirror to see the phenomenon

Instructions:

  1. Rub the balloon gently on your (or your kids’) hair.
  2. Lift the balloon a little away from the head.
  3. See the hair reach out to the balloon!

Doing STEM activities for preschoolers

We listed some of the best and easiest STEM activities for toddlers at home. There are a lot more, but any of them should ignite your kids’ curiosity. By playing with them by introducing artistic elements and basic STEM concepts, toddlers will enjoy the learning process and keep their minds open to creativity in every aspect of their lives. Not only are you improving their ability to learn but also taking it as an engaging experience.